After half a foot of sticky, soggy snowfall overnight, today the temperature at Balsamea rose well above freezing. Along our trails, rapidly thawing snow showered from the trees everywhere in these dense woods, especially from the pines and firs, those bearers of great snow-loads.
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It fell in droplets, spoonfuls, cupfuls, bucketfuls and barrowfuls. The still, windless air said nothing while each of these sizes played their particular sounds, all around me patting, drumming, shushing and thumping their way through tree limbs, branches, twigs and evergreen boughs, then concluding each phrase with a strike on the snow on the ground. They formed an unusual percussive symphony unique to this particular circumstance, in a special variation playing upon atypical conditions in the fresh snow cover.
When or where can you hear nature using trees and snow as instruments to drench the still air in sound this way, with a variety of visual effects, too? When do you get to sit in the middle of the orchestra as it plays? It filled the air within a great dome surrounding me, simultaneously at every volume possible to my ears. Some notes played a few feet from me, ranging out to ones played barely within hearing. Some struck funny notes on my ball cap and shoulders. Continue reading →
During a slow sylvan saunter, if I stand still more than move, in bodily senses and in palpable transcendent essences I find reminders that nature made me to thrive among immortal woodland spirits, in refuge from the illusory blessings of merely mortal society. I cannot exceed the company of trees, nor regret deep solitude among them.
Each phase of nature, while not invisible, is yet not too distinct and obtrusive. It is there to be found when we look for it, but not demanding our attention. It is like a silent but sympathizing companion in whose company we retain most of the advantages of solitude … — Henry David Thoreau, Journal, November 8, 1858
Over the past two weeks, Buddy the Bio-psycho-social Therapeutic Friend with Four Paw Drive, took to moseying — FOUR TIMES — out toward the distant neighbor northwest of us. (We’re surrounded by woods, with open space over about half the distance to that neighbor.)
“Don’t give me that crap about looking like my human companion.”
Apparently they have the grand-kids staying a spell and one of them is an irresistibly (to Buddy) screamy girl (maybe it’s a boy, but I wouldn’t bet on it) playing in their pool, which sits very close to the wall of their house that faces our Balsamea, echoing her voice more toward us than in any other direction, sometimes helped by the west wind and humidity.
Measuring in a straight line, their house is about 350 yards away, on the other side of the road. That is highly unacceptable moseying, definitely off the reservation. Buddy does not have a license to operate on blacktop or to rescue screaming girls that far away.
Plants can be psychoactive without ingesting them. For instance, some have uplifting odors. Lilac. Balsam fir. Tea berry. Mint. Freshly mowed lawn. Sometimes just looking at them can do the trick, especially when they show up in greater quantity than in several earlier years at a given place. It’s like discovering that you had more money in the bank than you knew. (I’ll leave it to you to think of depressing plants.)
Among the usual spring blooming things, this year Balsamea first showed us maple tree flowers, pussy willow fuzzies, and violets, in that order.
Next came the yellow trout lilies (Erythronium americanum), and they came more than ever. Continue reading →
I can only imagine the wonders that Buddy enjoys in the woods of Balsamea every day and night, with his great capacity for scent, hearing, and night vision.
When he stops in the trail to investigate something, I wait. It’s the least I can do for all the times he waits while I do things in my never-ending pursuit of amateur silviculture, naturalism, and trail tending. Come to think of it, he spends most of his time waiting for me.
There never has been and never will be a friend so patient, so tolerant, so forgiving, so playful, and so nice to pet. A good dog is medicine for mind and body. Cats, too. But you can’t take cats for a hike, and they’re generally not so big on tug-of-war and keep-away with a stick, in all seasons and all weather.